First off, a disclaimer: yes, JT Leroy does not exist. Surely by now you've read that "JT Leroy" was a hoax by author Laura Albert and husband Geoffrey Knoop and that Knoop's half-sister Savannah portrayed Leroy in public appearances. I think it's fabulous. Then again, I'm a 45-year old mother of two from outside Boise, Idaho, disguising my self as a gay man in Manhattan because no one would read my writing if they knew I bought my 'mom jeans' at Wal-Mart. Okay, not really, but the point is that what matters in story-telling is the story, not the packaging. Having seen an advanced screening of the movie that premieres in New York and Los Angeles tomorrow, I can look past the "controversy" and readily recommend readers to do the same.
After the jump, a full review and photo gallery.
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The Heart Is Deceitful tells the story of Sarah and Jeremiah, a star-crossed mother and son who are hopelessly drawn to one another, despite the lack of benefit to either. Despite foster parents, intervening religious-zealot grandparents and even hospitalization, Sarah will always find Jeremiah. Despite his early repulsion to Sarah, Jeremiah eventually is drawn in to the siren call that is Sarah, eventually subsumed into her tumultuous, hedonistic life.
Jeremiah is the "any-child", a blank template that can become a creature of his environment. Jimmy Bennet (soon to be in The Poseidon Adventure), portrays a Jeremiah full of wonder and terror. His every change of expression is riveting and draws you in. "Older" Jeremiah as played by twins Cole and Dylan Sprouse, is more ensconced into the world of wonder that is Sarah, making his world both understandable through his fictions of survival and relate-able via the humanity of the performance.
Like Jeremiah, Sarah is the result of her environment as well, but more the result of realizing the falseness of a hyper-faithed environment, rejecting it and rebelling without having a template to guide her forward. As Sarah, Asia Argento truly gives a sense of unpredictability. She seems to be several people (slightly reinforced by a somewhat inconsistent dialect), all of whom are in constant pursuit of the whirlwind.
Throughout their adventures, an all-star cast supports the story and brings the characters forward. A stern Peter Fonda, a dark-eyed Jeremy Renner, and a screen-filling Winona Ryder flesh out Jeremiah's world further. Marilyn Manson, who has learned that subtle creepy outweighs blatant creepy, and Jeremy Sisto, who really needs to find a non-twitchy role at some point, further drive Jeremiah and Sarah down their road of delusion.
Through laser-sharp definition of these characters, Director Asia Argento drives home the importance of the family and of nurture. Yes, T.H.I.D.A.L.T. is a "family" movie. But is the family as an agitated, unguided force. The agitation pervades Eric Edward's cinematography and the deceptively simple animation of Christinane Cegavske. With the music of Sonic Youth's Marco Castoldi driving the discord up to it's highest point, it isn't without a thorough haunting that you can leave the theater.
In fact, leaving the Times Square screening and unable to shake the film abruptly, suddenly the world was dark, eerie and chaotic, the usual madness magnified. Lights blared, voices became cackles and even pigeons were filled with danger. But somehow, just as Asia Argento manages to make you love both Jeremiah and Sarah, the harshness and paranoia was somehow comforting, thrilling. A comfortable agitation.
The Heart is Deceitful Above All Things premieres tomorrow at the Sunshine Theater on Houston. Trailers and tickets are available here.
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